At first glance, a visit to Bergamo might not seem like much, just another out-of the-way Italian town belching a near endless stream of Milan or Venice-bound tourists through the doors of its budget airport. Cold, concrete and unattractive, the first impression it offers visitors is a far cry from the classic Roman-era image travelers expect of Italy. But slip through the 20th Century net of the industrialized new town, the Città Bassa, and you’ll literally stumble across the Città Alta, the Renaissance-era old town where tarmac roads and glass-fronted offices are shunned for cobbled streets and ornate stone churches. This is where it is, Bergamo’s beating heart, the romantic side of the town.
There’s a palpable secrecy to the Città Alta (upper city, on account of its elevation from the sprawling newer suburbs). Hidden behind a 17th Century solid stone wall, its labyrinthine streets rise in a never-ending path on the southern slopes of the Alps, passing along cobbled roads, and by crumbling buildings and vine-covered castles.
You can reach the Città Alta on foot, but there’s a lovely old wrought iron funicular, built in 1897, that rattles its way noisily up the side of the hill. It’s not the smoothest ride but it shortens the climb and affords staggering views over the Alps and the Lomardy region to the south. When you visit Bergamo in daytime and take the tram, you’ll notice worn carriages filled with curious tourists and native Italians heading to work.
By night, the tourists are still there, but the Italians have returned dressed for the evening, heading out to do what they do best; eating, drinking and making merry.
Stepping off the funicular is akin to being transported back in time.
The narrow Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe is as authentic Italian as can be. In one corner a tiny trattoria has its doors flung wide, the smell of freshly baked biscotti mingling with the heady aroma of strong espresso, young Italian men making eyes over the bar at the young Italian waitress.
More narrow streets wind their way off into the town of Bergamo.
It’s easy to see why legendary lothario Casanova made his way here when he ran out of 19th Century Venetian women to seduce. Hidden courtyards, solitary steps and empty alleyways become tempting retreats for late night lovers, out of sight of the Via Gombito – the partially pedestrian-zoned main drag – where little shops sell locally produced food and clothing.
Visit Bergamo: Love Beyond Its History
But romance in Bergamo isn’t limited to illicit trysts behind the 14th Century Cittadella or clandestine meetings in shadowy corners of the Palazzo Nuovo. It’s found at the tables of late night trattorias, in every melting bite of ganache-glazed torte and in every sip of locally produced Botticino.
The Hotel Piazza Vecchia sits behind an understated wooden door on Via Colleoni, yards from the old town’s historic mediaeval square. Hotel Piazza Vecchia is a 1300 year old converted town house, modernized sympathetically to retain as many of the original features as possible. It’s the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere of this wonderfully ancient citadel.
And after visiting Bergamo, especially if you go in the summer, I highly recommend the Mediterranean experience of Cannes, my childhood home.
Additional resources you may be interested in:
- Top Things To Do In Bergamo
- 10 Best Restaurants in Bergamo
- International Cupid–connecting lovers across the world, everyday
- 21 Things You Should Know Before Moving To Italy